Saturday, June 25, 2011

Five Minute Friday: Wonder

{I love taking part in Lisa-Jo's Five Minute Friday challenge... write for 5 minutes without stopping, or editing - just 5 minutes of splashed thoughts on a prompt, and see what comes out.  This is the first Friday in about a month I've actually been online to do this live!}

This week's prompt: Wonder...


Wonder... Wonderful God.  Wonder like a child's heart, wonder how long it will take me to find a child's heart of my own.  Wonder at Your creation, wonder at Your creating me, with all my imperfections.  Wonder even more at Your loving me, despite those imperfections.  

Wonder at Your calling me to wifehood, to motherhood, wonder immensely at the gifts those names are, the privilege - wonder hugely at the weight of responsibility and depth of joy inherent in those words.

Wonder at Your stunning magnificent capacity for redemption, for picking up all my broken pieces and restoring my days to joy, for loving my children through me, even though I scream and rage and destroy as much as I build up... wonder at Your all-powerful forgiveness, and the sheer life-giving power of Your words.  Wonder why if You live inside me every word I speak, why are so many of my words not filled with Your life?

Wonder at the miracle of life, wonder at Your giving it to me, and wonder at Your giving me the capacity to give life through my body.  Wonder at the two miracles I have birthed, and wonder at the stunning presence of You through them to me every day.

I wonder why I don't see / enjoy / experience / revel / delight / dance in joy more often.


Friday, June 24, 2011

drinking from a fire-hose

For 8 days we’ve been drinking from a fire-hose.  We've absorbed a smorgasbord of cabbage and potatoes, lake-views, wonderful devotions about the Holy Spirit, colleagues’ stories, information and advice.  We’ve spoken out words of encouragement, worship and praise, grief and lament.  We’ve shared dreams and hopes and fears, processing together, with never enough time to go deep enough but with the promise of further conversation… which, by the time we all return to our full and varied lives, may be less practical than it feels at the moment.  
And now, two days after our marathon 14-hour return trip in the car (including a 4-hour reason-less delay at the border which meant we didn’t arrive home until 4am), my brain feels fried and listless.  Instead of feeling more full of the Holy Spirit, I feel less.  I even teared up at the breakfast table this morning, and couldn’t tell you why...
After weeding a row of lettuce, setting up the kiddie pool for the first time this summer, and splashing around with my boys for a while, I did feel better… But I could also feel my emotions tied uncertainly to my shifting environment.  Circumstantial joy is the most devious kind.  It’s like trying to keep a wave on the sand.  When a happy thing happens, your heart lifts.  But immediately a kid starts whining, and you plummet again.  
I started praying, almost unconsciously, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…”  I do know this, actually, even though I don’t live it.  I know that my joy has to be anchored in the Rock of my Salvation, or it will slip and slide with every interruption, spilled drink, temper tantrum or unexpected delay.  Even though I know this, it’s hard to live it out… and I have to go back to my post from two weeks ago: keep my stem in the Water.  
I painted this picture this afternoon, while the boys were watercoloring.  

Amateur, childish maybe… but it captures me as I want to be

a tree firmly planted by streams of water, that bears its fruit in season and its leaf does not wither” 
(Ps. 1:3).  

My leaves wither every time I anchor my joy in the shifting waterless sand of what’s around me, in whether what’s happening moment by moment is pleasing to me or not.  

Today I’m turning brown and shriveling at the edges.
Time to get my roots in the Water.


Something to ponder...
How do you rejuvenate when you feel dry and withered?

how to keep your stem in the Water

{written over two weeks ago... one of several posts I have ready but haven't been able to post because of home internet issues and a ten-day trip out of the country with no internet... thankful for grace!}

Beep, beep, beep.  I wake achy, grouchy, groggy.  Stayed up too late last night starting a project… I grope foggily for my alarm.  Rise with a headache to write my three pages, the threads that pull me up out of dream cobwebs into what lies ahead today, and then through the day’s plans on deeper down to the Important: what I can’t afford not to do.   My hand comes to the end of forming the three pages worth of words, my letters tired and sloppy.  Today it seems the Important is to write this post, write an update before leaving Saturday for our 10-day retreat in a neighboring country… but something feels missing.  
I get in the shower.  Mechanically, I wash my hair, vaguely aware of the hot water.  I massage my neck, trying to ease my tight muscles, not really enjoying anything, not really awake… 
Not until I get to the kitchen table.  There’s my pancake, all ready for me by my wonderful husband, there’s my cup of coffee (also his doing), and there is the kids’ verse calendar, still set to June 7.  I flip the page.  I see this:

And I think, as I cut my pancake absentmindedly, why don’t I feel this more?  Why do I mostly feel all glazed and befuddled, as though I were living in a dream (apart from staying up too late)?  Why do I not feel alive, in the most heavenly sense?
A new life has begun.  Do I feel this birthed in me?  I take a sip of coffee, a bite of pancake, try to ingest this truth.  I am not the same anymore.  Well, then, why am I so sinful still?  
I go grab my camera, thinking this might be significant later, and it’s not until I’m snapping pictures that I see it.  Right next to “a new life has begun”.

Stems in water.  To sustain a life, we must have water.  And to sustain New Life after being cut off from our old one, we must keep our stems in the Water.  
Keeping our stems in Water all day long keeps New Life flowing up through heart veins, keeps fruitful flowers fresh, cleanses out toxins, opens us up a little more beautifully each day.  

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Col. 3:3
-Snip- went Christ’s scissors, gloriously, and my life was cut off from its old sin-source and plunged deliciously into a New Source of Living Water: Christ, in God.  And the only way to stay straight and strong is to keep my stem in the Water.  
  • By giving thanks.  Keeping my gratitude list on the fridge always before my eyes, adding a line or two every time I come into the kitchen.  Speaking gratitude aloud to my children, eliciting thanks-things from them, writing theirs down too.  Singing my thanks aloud.
  • By putting life-giving, renewing Scripture up around my house.  [Even just on post-it notes - who says everything has to be beautifully cross-stitched, even if that’s how I’d like it?  Better to get it up there before my eyes, in a simple form, than to procrastinate until the non-existent day when tracts of time for cross-stitching will magically open up…]
  • By pausing at morning tea-time, lunch-time, nap-time, afternoon tea-time, dinner-time, to ponder Jesus.  To take a long refreshing drink of His presence.  To turn my eyes on Him and look Him full in the face.  To bring my children with me, let Him gather them (and me) up like lambs in His arms and feel Him holding us for a long, slow minute or two.
Give thanks.
Make Scripture visible.
Pause to ponder Jesus.  
Keeping our stems in Water.  

And then, Lord willing, my flower-blooms will stay bright regardless of diarrhea, unexpected guests, bloody ankles, burnt rolls, squabbling whining children, power-outtages, dirty bathrooms… 
“‘Tis only the abiding 

that can really satisfy the thirsty soul, 

and give to drink 

of the rivers of pleasure 

that are at His right hand.”

~Andrew Murray, Abide In Christ

Something to ponder...

Has your “stem” (like mine) come out of the Water recently?  

What happened?  What did you do?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Afraid... of music? But I'm a musician!

[disclaimer: I wrote this post at 10pm last night and haven't re-read it... ]

My latest epiphany: 
I think I am actually afraid of music.
But I’m a musician.  Why in the world would I be afraid of music?
Let me qualify: by “music” here, I mean the musical world as a phenomenon, including all published music ever written, in all the eras of world history.  I don’t mean the making of live music (I’m never afraid of that - it thrills me), or the making of my own music (I’m slightly intimidated to try, and always feel slightly unoriginal, but not afraid).
What makes me afraid?  Tonight, I finally put my finger on it: 
it’s my perfectionism
my need for control
and my all-or-nothing-ness.  
Here are the facts:
  • It kills me that it’s impossible for me to listen to every single song ever written before coming to my conclusions about what I prefer (lack of thoroughness).
  • It’s pretty hard for anyone to simply decision-make logically about music, that it’s by nature a gut-level like or dislike thing that I can’t control (lack of control).
  • I make logistical excuses for why we don’t listen to music around the house (we don’t have a home sound system; my iPod is too small to load everything on at the same time, which requires an extra step of changing out my music every so often, which I rarely get around to), when the reality is I don’t really know exactly what I feel like listening to at any given moment because I’m not versed in what’s “out there” and I’m not even tuned in to my own musical preferences.  I always feel the stuff I have is boring and old and worn out, but I don’t know how to refresh because there’s so much new to pick from.  I hardly know what I prefer because I don’t even know what all my options are, and because I can’t see all my options I find it hard to make a decision?  
  • I’m constantly feeling guilty for being a once-upon-a-time classical musician yet not owning more classical music, listening to more classical music, not exposing my kids to a broader range of music… but when I go to remedy any of those, the range of choices is so incredibly overwhelming I don’t know where to start.
I feel so weird!  Who relates to music like this?  Who lets music be a source of guilt?  Good grief!  
{Not my sister.  Definitely.}
Here’s an odd observation: To tell me what I should listen to next, I rely almost solely on music people give me.  Isn’t that weird?  Like, what - God’s supposed to drop my next listening assignment out of the sky, because there’s just so much to listen to I can’t handle it and feel overwhelmed, so I throw up my hands and give up and don’t listen to anything until it bonks me on the head?  Good grief, again!
Really.  Seriously.  This feels like a problem.  Is it a problem?  Was I always like this?  Just “take it as it comes”, never “go get it myself”?  Always being told what to like, listening to things just because everybody else around me was listening to them?  True, I have always enjoyed riding in other people’s cars and I do just drink in gratefully whatever they happen to turn on (although the limited taxi-menu of either Russian rap or Central Asian crooning is a bit hard to swallow).  But why, in the world?  I’m music-starved in my own home?  There must be something wrong with me.
Why can’t I just pan the smorgasbord, pick at random, and enjoy it?  Are my music tastes so narrow and “old-fogey-ish” that if I pick at random I’m sure not to enjoy it?  Is it because buying music is expensive, even as mp3s, and I’m enough of a prude to still feel generous twinges of conscience about ripping or stealing or “borrowing” from someone else?
Yes, I feel overwhelmed by the smorgasbord.  For every new cool band I learn the name of, 10 or 20 more will pop up next week, so what’s the use? 
And yes, I’m so grateful (though feeling slightly guilty) when someone whose musical tastes I trust hands me a memory stick of eclectic “new” music, because I finally feel the gates creak open and my musical self expand, which is what I’m always longing for, secretly and shyly.  
I just don’t know why I’m so hung up about it all.
My dad would probably say it’s because I’m an “uptight chicky-babe.”  
He’s probably right.  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

to thank, instead of fume...

(This post written a week ago... been having multiple internet issues since returning from our visa run... thank you for grace!)

It’s 2:36pm.  I’m sitting at my desk, longing for a nap, stubbornly holding my eyelids open to read and respond to “just one more” of the 91 emails I’ve received during our 6-day visa run.  (Which, by the way, resulted in us receiving a one-year visa in just one day - unheard of!  Praise the Lord)  
I’ve wallowed my way through multiple loads of laundry, a garden filled with weeds and a house filled with cobwebs, and I’m procrastinating lying down (never a good idea) to wallow my way through a few more things on my to-do list… 
...and then I hear it.  The pelt of raindrops outside.  I have 4 loads of holiday laundry on the lines out back, hung out because my covered lines had broken last night, and this morning it had just sprinkled a bit before turning warm and sunny.  I know all 4 loads are already dry - they’d been out there since 10am.  I’d been planning to bring them in before my nap, and had gotten sidetracked with email… 

Frothing at the mouth (I’m hardly exaggerating), I race outside and get thoroughly damp myself while frantically pulling everything off the line and stuffing violently into the basket, nearly sobbing with frustration and fatigue and sheer futility.   I stomp back and forth in the dust-turning-to-mud, angrily slinging clothes around and flinging handfuls of pins into the container as hard as I could, already feeling a bit embarrassed inside at my ridiculous overreaction, surreptitiously peeking over the fence to make sure my staid elderly neighbors weren’t witnessing my display of immaturity.  
In a phrase, I “spat the dummy”(*see bottom of post).  Over a few drops of rain.  Granted, I now have 4 loads of once-dry, now-damp laundry strewn all over my living room with no place to hang it.  Frustrating, yes.  Occasion for a massive temper tantrum?  No.  So what in the world is going on?

I finally curl up for my nap, still fuming, and lie here ruminating on my immaturity and lack of self-control…. How is it possible to be 29 years old, walking with Jesus since I was 3, and still completely lose control of my emotions over a bit of damp laundry?  
{I do think a current bout with culture stress might have something to do with it... Yesterday I burst into tears like a 5-yr-old over not being able to read a KFC menu in Russian, mistakenly ordering a bucket of 16 spicy wings which none of us like, and then not being allowed to exchange it for something else even though we hadn’t touched it.  In retrospect, there’s probably not a fast-food restaurant on the planet that would exchange an order for something else once the person has walked off with it!  But at the time it was very distressing: I felt like a child, angry, humiliated and defeated.  All typical culture stress symptoms: normal, but never easy to cope with.}
But is there something deeper than culture stress going on here?  To absolutely throw a temper tantrum over dry clothes getting wet?  Over my own laziness and procrastination?  Over loss of time, and loss of control over my environment, my day, my plans?  To be so intensely and vehemently angry that it took a full half-hour for my breathing to return to normal?  
Whatever the deeper causes may be (and I’m still looking for them), one thing is for sure: as I talked with Jesus about my “episode”, curled up under my blanket, here’s what I heard:
You didn’t try giving thanks.
“What?!?  Thanks?!?  Give thanks for what?  For… all my hard work wasted?”
How about for having clothes to wear?  So many clothes that you can take away a suitcase full, not do any laundry for a week, and return with extra clean clothes still in your suitcase?
What about rain to make the garden grow?

Lines to hang your clothes on?  Pins to hang them with?

Arms to hang them up and take them down?

The sunshine that dried them?

A house to bring them back into and a floor to spread them out on?

A voice, even if you’re shouting and screaming at me with it?

The precious people in your family who wore these clothes, and the fun things you did together that got them dirty?

“Oh… yeah… I guess that’s a start.”
Maybe if you tried thanking, instead of fuming, you’d keep perspective a bit better? 

Yes.  As I write all this down to post to the world, I feel humbled, chastened and encouraged, all at the same time.  

Trying to learn to thank instead of fume: to choose in the very throes of emotion to find something, anything, to say Thank You for, instead of spitting that dummy just as far as I can spit.
So there you have it, folks.  Me, in all my glory as a sinful human being in progress… will you come and try this with me, this choosing to thank instead of fume?   Maybe we'll learn to dance in the rain...

Question to ponder:
What chance did you have today 
to use thanksgiving as a doorway 
out of negative emotion into praise?  

Did you use it or blow it?  

Leave your story in the comments: I’d love to hear from you!

*"to spit the dummy" = New Zealand English for “freaking out” or “losing it” - from the picture of a baby spitting out their "dummy" (pacifier) in frustration.  So flattering.  And convicting.